AFGE, AFL-CIO laud anti-job discrimination, pro-public service bills

Washington (PAI) — The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) are lauding the latest version of legislation opposing job discrimination on the basis of age and of being differently abled. And the AFL-CIO has thrown its support behind a reintroduced bill giving all public service workers the freedom to bargain — effectively overriding bargaining bans in Texas, North Carolina and elsewhere.

The Equal Remedies Act, sponsored by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) and Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) would let workers who suffer age discrimination “access the same remedies available to those who experience other forms of discrimination,” AFGE says.

“This bill updates an outdated 1991 law that caps jury awards for employment discrimination, which prevents workers from receiving the full amount,” AFGE said. If an employer discriminates on the basis of the worker being differently abled, the maximum the worker can get is $50,000 if the firm employs fewer than 100 people and $300,000 if more than 500 work there, Bonamici reports.

And a worker who suffers age discrimination can get only “monetary losses, which can be doubled if the discrimination is egregious,” added Bonamici.

“AFGE represents workers who have experienced illegal treatment in the workplace and who deserve compensation to be able to be made whole,” union President Everett Kelley said of Bonamici’s bill.

“The arbitrary cuts placed on damages make it difficult for employees recovering from traumatic experiences to continue supporting themselves. Discrimination can inflict long-lasting damage on workers, and they deserve to be fully compensated.”

The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act would extend bargaining rights, the right “to join a union chosen by a majority,” the right to bargain “over essential workplace matters, to access dispute resolution” and to collect union dues, AFL-CIO Legislative Director Jody Calemine wrote to lawmakers on May 15. They’d also be able to “engage in activities related to collective bargaining and mutual aid.”

Rep. Matt Cartwright, (D-Pa.), reintroduced the measure and the federation wants other lawmakers to co-sponsor it.

But even with pro-union lawmakers’ support, and backing from other unions, the three measures are unlikely to go far. In the Senate, pro-worker laws get hamstrung by Republican filibusters and threats. In the GOP-run U.S. House, union-hater and worker-hater Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, pigeon-holed any measure that doesn’t fit the majority’s ideological mindset, while enacting anti-worker “messaging” screeds.

In many states, public workers lack some rights the bill lists. In Texas and North Carolina in particular, they lack all of them.

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